By Aubretia Lycania
Description: Splinter's leaving his sons for Japan with a reminder of his imminent mortality, and the turtles' family ties are being redrawn. It's time for Raphael to learn control, for Michelangelo to take control, and for Leonardo and Donatello to deal with what they can't control—including their brothers.
Author's Note: Those of you who recognize me know I frequent familial stories over in the overpopulated Harry Potter fanfic sites on the internet. However, I am making a jump to TMNT because I've watched it (and have been formulating stories about it) since before I can remember seeing the first episode. I am now twenty years old, and the Turtles have been "growing" with me (interesting how they stay the same bloody age, though), and, given my experience with my seven sisters (four younger, three older… oi vey), I am writing this as a way of expanding upon their familial experience without the action that normally accompanies them. Yes, there will be fighting. No, it will not be between Raphael and Leonardo, love it as we all do. It is set soon after the new TMNT movie, perhaps a month later, after the thrill of victory has worn off. Please enjoy, and I invite all feedback and criticism, as always.
Disclaimer: Umm… If I owned the turtles, I would have had to invent them in 1984, which was two years before my birth. So… I'm thinking I don't own them. Just a hunch. I just borrow them, because they're like having big brothers. Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman rock, by the way.
What Cannot Be Fixed
Leonardo found renewed life with his brothers to be something like picking up a book he hadn't read in years, and hearing a child interpret it for him. Once upon a time he had known the book to its infinitesimal syllable, to every preposition—and he'd taken it for granted. The flow, the words, the order of events, had been a reality that passed and happened without his needing to concentrate. Now, a new voice had control of that life, changing the rhythm, placing emphasis where none had been before, forgetting words he realized that he'd always assumed were there, adding in and adlibbing, vociferating and altering, transforming and mutating, all that had once been so very normal to him.
Donatello leading with his shoulders in combat training, always losing balance over Mikey's chucks; the sound of his keyboards, sonar beeps in the middle of the night, drip-drippings from the chem set, Coke cans full of screws and nuts and bolts and potato chips. His fastidiousness over the state of his screens but a shrugged uncaring in the kitchen, a supped-up version of '80s pong on the monitor behind him when he fell asleep in front of his surveillance gear—the way Donnie would wake up immediately if anyone tried to turn it off.
Michelangelo gamely stuffing two Hostess cupcakes in his mouth at a time every morning in an attempt to make Raphael smile—and sometimes succeeding. The way he pretended to slip on the frosting spill in the corner of the kitchen at least twice a week; the competition they all had, unspoken, over who would at last give in and mop it up before the cockroaches got there. The way Mikey yelled unrestrainedly at the Mortal Kombat arcade console when the button stuck and he couldn't do his favorite final moves; the sound of his snoring underneath an X-Men comic book on the couch; the hole in his favorite sofa cushion which kept mysteriously enlarging; his poster of Vanna White with nunchaku drawn into her hands, ostentatiously autographed "THE MIKESTER"—and the two darts Raph and Donnie had thrown at either hand, to simulate Mikey trapping her in the picture. The piece of pizza stuck to the ceiling fan with a shuriken.
Raphael's sudden disconcerting silences, the sound of his fists, muffled, pounding repeatedly into the often duck-tapped punching bag in the training room at three in the morning. A small smile, looking down, then suddenly crushing a Cactus Cooler can over his head, to Mikey's uproarious applause. Playing pizza football with Donnie, catching a slice of pepperoni and marshmallow on his sai after a back flip off the top bunk. Polishing the shell cycle up in the warehouse lovingly, in the same meditative way Leonardo found himself polishing his swords, lopping motor oil at Casey or Donnie when they made some crack about his unhealthy obsession with the bike. The strange dilation of his eyes during training, his labored breathing, as though his heart were being crushed, as he lost focus and dove headlong into battle haze, until someone knew enough to throw him into a wall and bring him back to earth. The gouges in his shell, the spider's web crack in the center, like the fracturing of a mirror.
Doritos in the beds, plastic snakes in the fridge and in Leonardo's sheets, gummy bugs hanging from the ceiling, the old Pepsi and cheese stains in the den, different sleeping and non-sleeping sounds, Master Splinter's soap operas during the day and sci-fi monster killer-thriller-chiller movies all night. Donnie's stuffed Godzilla doll he used to drag around when they were about seven appearing in strange places, Mikey's Panda bear he still slept with, a dusty Wolverine figure standing in for innumerable memories above Raphael's bed.
These fragmented details made up the stuff of Leonardo's existence, and yet now they appeared strange, suddenly unreal beside the wider world of Central America, Spanish-speaking thugs, the smell of potatoes and chilis, thrum of the jungle confused with the rumble above, red-eyes and the subway. A month had passed since they'd defeated Winter's brothers and closed his portal, a month since that sense of victory, dignity, and purpose that made all their petty fights evaporate. But the petty fights, the squabbles over Sonic the Hedgehog, combat simulations gone awry, the struggle and daily work, were the core of their existence, save the odd fight to save a lady's purse or stop a robbery-in-progress. The petty fights that evaporate, like water on pavement, precipitate down once more, flooding the sewers. Their sense of purpose felt washed away with it, sometimes, in the middle of training, or the middle of the night, or in the middle of… their life.
And in the middle of all those details Leonardo had once taken for granted arose new details: Mikey, half-dressed as Cowabunga Carl, slumping into the den and crash-landing on the couch, exhausted from children beating him over the head like a turtle piñata, and complaining about over-demanding uptown mothers who planned parties to within an inch of his life. Donnie's exasperated voice from his alcove, trying to calm people over the IT tech support hotline, and once in a while chuckling as he taped particularly retarded callers for the edification of his brothers later than evening. A few hours of gratifying calm as Raphael returned, tired but contented, from the warehouse where he and Casey repaired bikes, mopeds, and ATVs for a small clientele, covered in axle grease but looking tempered and somewhat accomplished, happy to take calls for Mikey and write down the night's pizza orders. Leonardo found himself doing odd jobs for all three of them in between his training—looking up new viruses for Donnie while he was on the line with someone who had some nasty malware, helping Mikey practice his balloon animals or bubble formations, repairing extensive damage on urgently-needed motorcycles with Raph late into the night, after Casey had taken to the streets in his hockey mask.
With Donatello and Michelangelo, things were much as they'd always been; Leo could confide his problems and find empathy in Donnie; he could tease and be teased by Mikey as he had his entire life. But he found a sudden and very new negotiating of boundaries between himself and Raphael, suggestive that Raph was attempting to forge some figment of an adult relationship with him—to go from rival brothers to something like friends. After sixteen years they'd finally almost killed each other, and both knew, but never said, that things could only get better after that—or they'd both die.